Usually there isn’t much to say after the first day of the NCAA Championships. After all, the bulk of the finals are on Friday and Saturday. But Wednesday may have already started shaping those finals as three big names didn’t move through.
The semifinals started blazing hot with the 4x1’s. In the women’s semis first Texas A&M (42.99), then LSU (42.94 SB) laid down marks that set the stage for what should be a fast final. The men followed suit with four teams under 39.00 – Texas A&M (38.38), Florida (38.49), Illinois (38.72) and Florida St (38.75).
The track produced more fireworks in the men’s 800 as Charles Jock (UC Irvine, 1:45.77) and Willie Brown (Akron, 1:45.91) lead a sizzling set of races where the final qualifier was UCLA’s Cory Primm in 1:47.43! With the 400’s and 100’s still to come it looked like it was going to be a hot day on the track in spite of the winds that I could hear through the speakers of my computer on the internet feed – EXCELLENT feed by the way.
With favorites Jessica Beard (Tx A&M, 51.24), Diamond Dixon (Kansas, 51.64) and Joanna Atkins (Auburn, 51.69) leading the way in the women’s 400, things stayed on track. Then some weird things started to happen. Florida’s Tony McQuay looked to finally be recovered from early injury as he finished strong and blitzed a 44.86 to set the pace in the first heat of the 400. The next 5 qualifiers to the final were all bunched between 45.22 & 45.29. But the final two spots went to Texas A&M’s Demetriius Pinder (45.35, SB of 44.87) and Alabama’s Kirani James (45.51, SB of 44.86). James only made it as he finished 2 in his heat (auto qualifier) as three others ran faster than he did! Not so lucky was A&M’s Tabarie Henry whose 45.60 left him in 6th behind McQuay’s blistering pace in heat one, and out of the final – the first major loss of points for any of the major team title contenders.
The bad mojo stayed on the track for the 100 meters as the the women and men’s heats dropped two more. In the women’s heats Jeneba Tarmoh (Tx A&M) never ran as she was tossed out due to a false start – leaving A&M with no one in the 100 final while LSU moved two through! I can’t stand the false start rule as I’ve stated many times before. all I will say here is that Tarmoh’s false start was not blatant and she clearly wasn’t trying to gain any unfair advantage. It’s sad that she isn’t in the final.
The men’s race saw defending champion and favorite Jeff Demps (Florida) just eliminated. Demps didn’t run his best race by any means, but the discrepancy in wind readings – Heat 1 (-1.0), Heat 2 (-2.4), (-1.1) – certainly didn’t help as Demps was in the dreaded heat 2 where 1st & 2nd place had the events two slowest qualifiers and Demps, a close third, was left out of the final. While I understand the idea of moving everyone along based on time, in events where the wind plays a factor I sometimes think it was better when we simply moved every along based on placing in your heat – balance the heats and the first 3 or 4 (depending on the round and # of heats) move on. Both have their good points and bad points, I just hate that potentially the wind may affect this race without everyone having the same conditions.
Either way, two big favorites are out of the 100’s and the team races are already starting to shift. Texas A&M will have no representation in the women’s 100. Interestingly enough while Demps did not make the final, teammate Terrell Wilks did. Same scenario that occurred in the SEC meet where Demps false started in the 100 and Wilks made the final – and won the event! Let’s see if we get a repeat here. A bit tougher with sprinters like Makusha (FlSt), Miitchell (FlSt) and Salaam (OK) in the field. But hey, it’s starting to look like this meet isn’t going to follow the script!
More prelims today – including 200’s, 1500’s, men’s LJ, 100/110 hurdles and 1600 relays. So we should get more clarity on who the team contenders will have in the finals the next two days.